So many great matches have happened on the WrestleMania stage. When fans talk about great matches in WWE history, there is always a Mania match involved. From Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage to Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, or from Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior to Hogan vs. The Rock, WrestleMania classics come in all different forms. Last year I spent a lot of time going back and watching Mania matches so that I could make my own list of those I considered to be the best. That was one year ago. Doing the same thing now would certainly trigger me come up with a different list. That’s just the way of things. The taste of a wrestling fan changes with time over and over again. Despite the changes in mentality of any fan, there are certain Mania matches which always stand head and shoulders above the rest as classics. There are also those that get tossed from our memories, ignored and unappreciated. This year I decided to do something a bit different for WrestleMania season. Instead of coming up with a list of matches ranked in order of quality, I decided to shed a little light on both classics and the ignored. The fact is that some of the WrestleMania matches fans hold in high regard have either not stood the test of time, or were never really that great to begin with. On the flip side, matches disregarded and forgotten about deserve a little credit.
What you will be reading over the next few weeks in Notes from the Nosebleeds is a look at matches considered great, but are perhaps of deserving of the label and matches that deserve the credit they never got. To compile this list I have read several people’s match rankings, discussion forums, and talked to a few friends whose opinions on wrestling I trust. I wanted to get an idea for what people think about this topic. I have taken all of that into consideration and come forth with what I hope is a fresh view.
The first two matches discussed here are the same, but at different Manias. It’s a feud considered to be one that revitalized the tag team division and launched the careers of future world champions. Yet for all the love these two matches have, time has not been on their side.
Edge and Christian vs. Matt and Jeff Hardy vs. Buh Buh Ray and D-Von Dudley (Ladder match from WM 2000 and TLC II from WM XVII)
When I was a teenager I was trying to convince a friend to watch professional wrestling. Worried that a basic match would be too boring to sway their opinion, I decided to pop in a tape (yes, a VHS tape) of the TLC match from WrestleMania XVII. That was a mistake. Within minutes I was told it was the most horrible thing my friend had ever seen. I still loved the match as a kid. Over time my view has changed on the series of matches these teams had. I enjoyed the Edge, Christian-Hardys matches, but when all three of these teams got in the ring at WrestleMania, it was a car wreck that may have actually damaged wrestling for a while. These men went in the ring and did high spot after high spot. None of it meant anything. It got a reaction from the crowd, but it put things so over the top that having a basic wrestling match seemed boring in comparison. The last several years has seen WWE dialing back on violence, but the Money in the Bank ladder matches remain the glorified car wrecks that do nothing for anyone. The three teams did literally dozens of spots, which could have been spaced out. Having a little bit of a lull in a match is a good thing. You can then ramp things up for the finish. Watching these matches now just seems like wasted time and effort. Considering the things these men did to their bodies, that’s sad. Part of the reason these matches falls out of favor is because of the time they came from. These matches belong to the Attitude Era, but that era is just a few years in a long history of wrestling. Watching these matches today would feel out of place. When you have guys doing spot after spot after spot and not having any rhyme or reason to it, it’s a waste of time. The WrestleMania 2000 match seems to get a lot of praise because it was something different. WrestleMania XVII was a great show. There is no denying it was one of the better WrestleMania shows ever put on. However, this match is often mentioned not only as the best on the show, but one of the best at any WrestleMania. But when you take the whole card into perspective and go through all the matches, in terms of quality, this is in the middle of the pack at best.
The next match is another tag team contest. Because of matches like TLC, this one if often forgot about and not appreciated for its quality or significance.
New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (Dumpster match from WM XIV)
Despite my criticism of the matches above, all three teams were part of an important tag team renaissance in the last 1990s. What people often forget about is that a team called the New Age Outlaws were the start of that. In late 1997, WWE took two guys who were struggling creatively and put them together as a tag team. Billy Gunn and Jesse James took the ball and ran as far as they could. Neither guy was ever the best worker on the roster, but they were given a chance and utilized. They made the most of it. They came into prominence when they defeated the fading Legion of Doom, but it wasn’t until they began a feud with Mick Foley that things started to take off. Back as Cactus Jack, Foley brought in Terry Funk as Chainsaw Charlie and they waged war on the Outlaws. It came to a head at WrestleMania XIV in a dumpster match. The Outlaws were the young punks trying thinking they could do whatever they wanted while Jack and Charlie sought to take them to school. Foley had a number of feuds where he was used to make another guy look good. The Undertaker, Triple H, Edge and Randy Orton are his most famous opponents for that, but the Outlaws were part of that too. A lot of people forget that when it came time for the Outlaws to break up, Billy Gunn nearly became a main event guy. Everything the Outlaws did, all the success they had, goes back to Foley and Funk and WrestleMania XIV. It was a wild and crazy brawl that gave the heroes the victory, but made the young guys look better than ever.
That will do it for the first week. There are plenty more matches to analyze and will be done so in more detail here. In the meantime, I encourage you to go back and watch some of these matches, or even think about WrestleMania matches you have wondered if they deserve the praise they get, or if there are those deserving of the credit they never had.